PORTSMOUTH -- Each day, every day, 94 senior citizens get a telephone call from someone with Elder Watch, a program overseen by the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office.

'This time of year, for you and I, it may feel unbearable. For them, it really is, because when the humidity goes up, it's like they're breathing water,' noted Captain Lee Cherry with the sheriff's office. 'With the heat problem and all of this going on, it's critical we stay in touch with 'em and know what's going on with 'em.'

If a volunteer making the daily well-being check by phone cannot reach one of the seniors enrolled in Elder Watch, a deputy will go to that person's home. The calls also identify issues that could put seniors' health and/or lives in danger.

'If we find that power's been cut off for some reason, we'll try and deal with the power company. If the air conditioning is going out, we can support 'em with a portable air conditioner on a temporary basis. We have air chillers we can put in there. We have fans we put in there,' Cherry told 13News Now.

'One of the dangers with the elderly at this time of year is that, if they like to sit outside on their porch, is the danger of falling asleep in the heat and not waking up, you know, in time, and, then, an emergency situation occurs,' explained Debbie Schwartz, Director of Development and Community Relations at Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.

The group, which supports seniors in South Hampton Roads and their families, tries to ensure clients stay out of the worst of the heat and humidity, that they stay hydrated, and that they know to call for medical help at the first sign of trouble.

'Limit your physical activity, especially if you're frail elderly,' recommended Schwartz. 'If you are active elderly and you feel like you have to walk like you do every day, go walk inside the mall where it's air conditioned.'

If air conditioning is available at home, Schwartz said, ideally, seniors, ideally should make use of it. Fans would be the next best option. Many summers, Senior Services has been able to provide fans to people.

'In past years, we have had fans. We've had donations of fans from air conditioning companies,' said Schwartz. 'This year, no one has stepped forward. If there's anybody out there that wants to donate fans to us or a local sheriff's department, you know, we all coordinated needs.'

'You get so concerned about, 'It's hot. My house is hot. I'm tired of fighting the heat,' that they forget that there are other people out there that are really suffering,' Cherry said. 'What we're trying to do is to look after those folks, but we all have to do it.'
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